Published: 14th June 2021
How a 25-year-old and 150 artisans from Rajasthan are redefining the world of handmade candles
In the long run, the goals of Tanushree Jain, who hails from Jaipur, Rajasthan, are pretty simple — she hopes to make the life of everyone around her better by offering them livelihood opportunities
This is a tale of two cities.
The first one is Jaipur, Rajasthan. Where Tanushree Jain was brought up and where she remained for years to come. As a child, she would tag along with her mother when the latter would make trips to rural areas of the city to teach. It was an experience of a lifetime. But even though Tanushree grew up soon enough, the city, by her own admission, still had some growing up to do. It was the same city where if you are not married by 23 and are running a business instead, you are an anomaly and the 25-year-old stood out like a sore thumb. Until she didn't.
Soon it was time for Tanushree to pursue a Postgraduate programme in Development Leadership from Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), Delhi, 2017 to be exact. Cue in city #2.
But the nation’s capital and its polluted air led to Tanushree developing a breathing condition which landed her in a hospital. After her discharge, she desperately needed a breath of fresh air.
Tanushree was awarded the Best Folk Dancer award by the Ministry of Railways in 2015
Which is how she discovered beeswax candles. While regular candles are made of paraffin, which is high in carbon content, beeswax candles actually have negative ions that clash with the positive ions in the environment and neutralise it. "Plus, it emits brighter light, burns slowly and is used during meditation by several kendras and yogis," explains the youngster. This candle did not just show her the way, but also led to livelihood opportunities for over 150 artisans.
But before Tanushree's start-up became a thing, tons of research and work experience in the form of her managerial role at Jaipur Rugs, a company that engages artisans across Rajasthan to make rugs. This is how she built her connections and when in December 2018 she registered Nushaura, her life wasn't bounded by two cities anymore. The world became her oyster.
It’s in the air
These candles are magic. With essential oils and handmade candles by the initial team of ten artisans from Patrakar Colony, Jaipur, they started spreading their effervescence when Tanushree started participating in exhibitions, started sending them to social media influencers for some good word of mouth and finally, that recognition and push from MSME (Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Government of India) proved to be the charm. But what's most important to Tanushree is the relationship she shares with her artisans. "In my start-up, artisans are not just workers, they are equal shareholders. We maintain transparency and all profits are divided equally among us," she shares.
The candles in all their glory
If the artisans went out of the way to learn a new skill, Tanushree too went the extra mile to make things easier for them. The tiniest but most thoughtful example we can give is that since artisans wouldn't be able to read the markings on a test tube, to measure out the exact quantity of essential oils, the entrepreneur marked them with nail polish! "In early 2020, we received what was our biggest order yet — a huge export order from the US, our first international one. But the pandemic descended, the order was cancelled and the stock was stuck with us," rues Tanushree. She understood quickly that since candles are a little bit of luxury, she started manufacturing triple-layer masks, pickles, chocolates, soaps, sanitisers, sanitiser dispensers and so on, to keep the artisans afloat. All this would retail online. They even got into the festival and corporate gifting space, which really helped matters.
Happy days are here again
Soon, good news came around again. Nushaura was selected for GIZ India's Her & Now programme by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) along with Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE). Financial aid, mentorship, support and more, a lot was on offer. And that's how Nushaura got back on track and are now working towards exporting their candles to the US, Germany and France.
Candles in the making
Apart from beeswax, the team started experimenting with palm, coconut and soy too. They would export pure beeswax from Bareilly and Gujarat and process it themselves. The essential oils usually came from Coimbatore, Delhi and Kerala. "With our essential oils, we often mix and match. Sometimes one candle has three-four essential oils. Like our rose and vanilla candle has four while lemongrass has only one. We experiment with 45 different oils. Their packaging is sustainable too,” shares Tanushree.
What is keeping Tanushree and the artisans occupied right now is their new collaboration with the Nari Shakti Foundation under which they will engage 8,000 women and teach them all that they know. And with the combined forces of the two initiatives, they will manufacture 15,000 kg worth of products. How's that for a turnaround? From one city to two, the start-up is now set to leave its mark across the world.
Check them out on Instagram. Their handle is @nushaura